Word of the Day : February 5, 2011

earwig

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verb EER-wig

Definition

: to annoy or attempt to influence by private talk

Did You Know?

Earwigs are small insects that were once thought to crawl into the ears of sleeping people. This isn't true -- earwigs prefer moist, dark places under leaves and rocks to human ears -- but the superstition led people to name the insect "ēarwicga," Old English for "ear insect." Over time, people connected the idea of having an insect in one's ear to situations that involve whispering or speaking privately into someone's ear. The noun "earwig" came to also mean "a whispering busybody" (though this sense is now considered archaic), and the verb "earwig" evolved to refer to the acts of such meddlers. In British English, the word is more commonly used to mean "eavesdrop," as in "earwigged on their conversation at the party."


Examples

Some of the students are not above earwigging the professor in an attempt to improve their grades.

“In Mississippi's casual sociality, lawyers see judges on hunting trips and at cocktail parties, and sometimes visit them privately in chambers. Occasionally, talk turns to the subject of a case pending before the court. Such ex-parte communication -- or 'earwigging,' as it's more commonly known -- is a technical violation of ethics standards, but it is hardly rare, and is usually harmless.” -- From an article by Peter J. Boyer in The New Yorker, May 19, 2008



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